What is the Kaddish? Intro to the Jewish Mourning Prayer

Posted By on October 18, 2019


there’s a surprising history behind one of Judaism’s most famous
and most powerful prayers The Kaddish is thought
to have originated in temple times. It was recited after a rabbinic lecture a way to remember that all those specifics of Jewish law were part of a much bigger
picture. Many scholars think that the lecturer would end his talk by freestyling some words of praise in Aramaic the language of the day according to this theory the Kaddish was the result of one such freestyling integrating language from the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, Job and Psalms Eventually, these particular words stuck
and became standard The Kaddish didn’t become
associated with death and mourning until the seventh century probably what happened was this: if a scholar died someone would teach some of his wisdom
at the funeral maybe as part of the eulogy since Torah was being taught then
they’d say the Kaddish afterwards but it wasn’t long before some people began to
get offended wait you said Kaddish at that guy’s funeral but not our beloved deceased? what are you trying to say that our beloved deceased wasn’t a great scholar? so it began to become standard to teach Torah at everybody’s funeral
then eventually saying Kaddish itself became part of the standard morning
practice as rabbi Maurice Lam put it the “The Kaddish serves as an epilogue to human
life just as historically it served as an epilogue to Torah study.” it’s a way for mourners to get into a space of praise even in their grief it’s a way to
honor the life of the deceased to sanctify God’s name as part of affirming
their relatives legacy and we need a quorum of Jews in order to say Kaddish because when we’re mourning we should be in community eventually the Kaddish
moved its way into every prayer service serving is something of a punctuation
mark that demarcates different sections of the liturgy the words of the Kaddish
don’t actually talk about study at all rather their praises to God and hopes
for divine sovereignty and peace and not just praises but heaps and piles of
praises Yitbarach V’Yishtabach V’Yitpa’ar V’Yitroman V’Yitnaseh V’Yithadar V’Yit’aleh V’Yit’Halal Blessed and praised glorified and exalted extolled and honored adored and lauded may be the name of the Holy One blessed be God It’s a lot. It’s meant to be a lot it’s meant to overwhelm you it’s about taking you to
this place of glory and exaltation and not holding back at all let it all out
but the real power of the prayer was thought to be in the congregational
response to the first paragraph yehey Y’Hei Sh’Mei Raba M’Varach L’Alam Ul’Almei Alma Ya. Rabbi Yeshua ben Levy asserts that he who responds amen may God’s great name be
blessed with all his might his decreed sentence is torn up our response matters
were not meant to stand passively on the sidelines of all of this praise but to
enter into the space of profound awe and glory ourselves and to that let us say Amen.

Posted by Lewis Heart

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